Combating poaching and illegal logging in Tanzania: voices of the rangers - hands-on experiences from the field

Combating poaching and illegal logging in Tanzania: voices of the rangers - hands-on experiences from the field

Poaching  of  wildlife  is  still  a  massive  problem  in  Tanzania. Since    2011,    the    tracking    and    crime-scene    management    training programme initiated by GRID-Arendal under INTERPOL guidelines  has  provided  more  than  2,000  rangers  and  game  wardens  with  new  tools  to  help  reduce  the  ongoing  crime.  This  report  assesses  the  impact  the  training  has  had  on  law  enforcement and identifies gaps in support and further needs. The training philosophy has been to train local trainers, who in turn have trained more than 2,000 rangers in the field, within a short time frame and with limited resources.

Feedback  from  interviews  with  rangers,  patrol  leaders  and  commanders is overall very positive. The general feedback from the rangers attending the training sessions is that all the topics contained features that have made work against illegal logging and  poaching  more  effective,  as  exemplified  by  numerous  concrete cases. Improved tactics have been particularly useful for  avoiding  exchange  of  fire  and  conducting  arrests  safely  without  the  use  of  force  or  prior  to  exchange  of  fire,  thereby  increasing  safety  for  both  officers  and  suspects.  The  training  has thus directly contributed to avoiding loss of life among both officers  and  suspects  in  concrete  incidents.  Furthermore,  by  further securing the rights and safety of suspects, the process has been made more ethical.

In  addition,  wildlife  and  forest  officers  are  regularly  called  on  to  provide  evidence  by  the  prosecution  in  court,  and  have  informally repeatedly emphasized that the techniques in crime-scene management have been useful, not least to ensure that evidence  is  handled  systematically.  According  to  interviewed  law  enforcement  personnel,  the  thorough  work  of  securing  evidence  from  the  field  has  proven  vital  in  charging  wildlife  perpetrators in the judiciary system.

Overall,  rangers  and  commanders  are  characterized  by  high  motivation, high dedication, excellent skills and willingness to put to use very limited resources to defend forests and wildlife, as evidenced by a number of incidents. However, efforts could be much improved by providing further tactical training at the command  level,  among  patrol  leaders  and  at  the  ranger  level  to  improve  performance  even  further.  Capacity  could  also  be  improved  by  extending  the  provision  of  basic  equipment  including  maps,  GPS,  vehicles  and  radios.  The  situation  is  worst  for  forest  rangers,  with  the  fact  that  the  illegal  loggers  seem  to  be  very  well  organized  and  armed  making  it  hard  for  the  forest  rangers  to  confront  them.  Tanzanian  law  prohibits  forest  rangers  from  arming  themselves;  only  specially  trained  wildlife rangers have permits to carry arms. This means that the forest rangers/guards do not have the capacity to confront the armed  loggers  without  support  from  armed  wildlife  rangers,  who  are  rarely  available.  Sometimes  a  handful  of  unarmed  forest  rangers  are  responsible  for  the  protection  of  vast  forest  reserves, with limited access to vehicles.

This reduces the effectiveness of both wildlife and forest rangers. Since there are very few of these law enforcement professionals relative  to  the  vast  areas  they  are  responsible  for  protecting,  illegal  logging  has  become  largely  unchallenged.  Unless  both  donors  and  the  Government  directly  prioritize  forest  rangers  substantially,  illegal  logging  and  deforestation  will  continue.  In  spite  of  vast  resources  given  to  preventing  these  practices,  these have in no way been reflected on the front line.